Today’s standard is: Listens and speaks for specific purposes. This kindergarten standard is taken from Fairfax County Public Schools. Fairfax County is located just outside Washington, DC in northern VA. The standard has 24 very important language arts benchmarks that align with it. The benchmark in the spotlight today is: Participate in a variety of oral language activities.
The importance of oral (spoken) language use in school cannot be emphasized enough, despite the fact that most people tend to think that school focuses on written language (i.e., language for reading and writing). The media, policy makers, government officials and parents put so much emphasis on the importance of reading to children daily, pre-literacy skills and helping children learn to write their “letters,” but my point and that of Operation Ready By 3 is to remind everyone that if a child does not possess solid oral language skills from birth to 5 (and beyond!), that school will always be a struggle due to social-emotional, communication and academic deficiencies that stem from the oral language skill deficiency.
Because it is easy to think of oral language simply as “talking,” here is a list of oral language skills that are needed by a child in order to meet the above kindergarten standard and aligned benchmark that is highlighted today. The activities that follow can build a variety of oral language skills in infants and toddlers to prepare them for achieving the above standard and benchmark in kindergarten:
1) Word Retrieval. Activities: Have child name as many animals as he can in 1 minute. Have child point to as many things you can sit on in a room. Have him tell you all the names of the people in the family.
2) Describing. Activities: Have child tell you what his bedroom looks like when he is standing in the kitchen. Ask him to describe what his grandparent(s) looks like when they are not around. Give the child a chance to choose clothing by describing (e.g., the blue shirt, the striped shirt, etc.). Ask child to describe what a zoo or farm animal looks like. Encourage him to describe what a fun activity or place would look like.
3) Defining. Activities: Encourage child to tell you what the following words mean (Prompt: What does _____ mean?): fast, hungry, tired, chair, cup, apple, shoe, house, car. Encourage child to count out 1, 2 and 3 objects.
4) Categorizing. Activities: Encourage child to name as many animals, vehicles, people, clothing, foods, drinks as he can. Encourage him to tell you the group that 3 category members belong to (e.g., What group do these belong to: zebra, elephant, giraffe?). Encourage child to sort objects (e.g., Put all the blue cars in a group, Put all the trains here and all the cars here, etc.). Name three category members and ask the child to name one more that would fit in the group.
5) Comparing/Contrasting. Activities: Ask child to tell you about different sizes (big/small), shapes and colors of objects. Encourage child to talk about how different people look. Ask him to show you different plants on a nature walk. Put 2 or 3 objects that are the same (e.g., spoons, cars, etc.) and 1 object that is different (e.g., a train, a shoe, etc.) and ask the child to show you which one is not the same or which ones are the same.
6) Explaining. Activities: Encourage the child to tell you what he had for breakfast. Ask him to tell you how he was playing with his toys. Encourage him to explain how to play a favorite game or make/prepare a certain food (e.g., a sandwich, popcorn, etc.)
7) Asking/Answering Questions. Activities: Encourage this all day long every day in a variety of settings and activities! These language skills cannot be emphasized enough!